Poem about Christchurch Mosque Attack wins University of Windsor Poetry ContestWritten by Making Headlines
Rima Asfour's poem recently won the Why Humanities annual Poetry Competition at the University of Windsor.
Rima's poem explores her reaction to the terrorist attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, by a White supremacist. Rima’s poem was judged by a panel of the Humanities Research Group (HRG) advisory board as "the most persuasive, original, inspired, and creative."
The following are two experts from her winning poem:
"So here it is, I am Muslim and I am proud
I will not succumb to the hatred in this world
The humanities has let me see,
The tip of the iceberg is never the full reality
The humanities has shown me that we must help one another
Learn from one another
Keep present and stand for what is right"
Muslim Link interviewed Rima about her work.
Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in Canada, but my ethno-cultural background is Lebanese because both my parents were born and raised in Lebanon before coming to Canada together. My parents worked extremely hard to make sure that I could live a life full of opportunity and blessings, and their sacrifices do not go unnoticed.
I am studying for an undergraduate degree at the University of Windsor, with a major in Political Science, and a double minor in English and Sociology. My career plans include becoming a lawyer and continuing to write poetry, and hopefully one day, publishing my poetry.
Why do you use poetry as a form of expression?
I use my poetry as a form of expression because it is a way of getting my voice out there and being heard. Often times, I feel as if I do not have a voice, but poetry allows me to express my thoughts and beliefs and also gives me the chance to be heard. I strongly believe that it is important to use my voice to speak up for the things that matter most, and spoken word poetry has allowed me to express myself creatively and in a way where I can connect with others, while also having a purpose and a path to my writing.
Tell us what inspired you to write this poem.
Honestly, what inspired me to write this poem (Title: “Human(ities)”), was anger, sadness, an overwhelming sense of emptiness and feeling complete and utter loss. My poem spoke about “Why the Humanities” (art, social sciences) matter and how that connects to the New Zealand terrorist attack that happened in March. The deadline of this contest was the same day as the terrorist attack. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write about something that truly mattered, and in many ways, I wish I never had to write about New Zealand, I wish that this tragedy never happened. When I learned of what had taken place in New Zealand, I almost felt numb and I was stunned, and speechless as this tragedy unfolded before my eyes. Sometimes, you can’t speak to people about these things because they won’t understand how much rage and sadness a person can feel all at once. And the only thing I could think of doing was to write about how I felt and why I felt this way. I asked myself, why the humanities, because we are human and to be human is to care for each other, and that means being "woke" and being aware of what is taking place around the world, how we are all connected, and how we must take care of each other and speak up for one another. In my poem I state:
“You ask me
'Why the Humanities?'
It’s what we do best.
is something that starts from within.
Starts with your heart.
Starts with who you want to become.
I want to become
a lover, with no hate filled inside of me.
And of all these tragedies
I will speak of these Muslims until my last breath.
Because they deserve a voice.
I am saddened, but not lost.
I am broken, but I am whole.
I will never be silenced.
I will speak up.
I need to be hopeful.
from the humanities.
Tell us about the significance of the reward you received from the University of Windsor for your poem.
The Why Humanities Competition is a competition that I am pretty familiar with since I entered last year, and I was a semi-finalist. Last year, I wrote a spoken word poem about the same topic of ‘Why the Humanities’, but I didn’t connect it to the world. It was constrained to my own bubble of a world. It didn’t connect people to each other. This year, when I decided that I wanted to enter the competition again, and when I wrote the poem about New Zealand, to be frank, it was never about winning. Sure, the reward is a bonus and I am grateful to the University of Windsor, but it never was or is about the reward. The reward for me, was being able to present this poem and connect with people, and being heard, especially when people from the event expressed their gratitude and their sympathy, their love and their hearts and being able to connect with people on that level is incredibly humbling. The reward for me also came from my Muslim community. They expressed their happiness in seeing a visible Muslim woman winning an award for something that mattered and expressing this refreshing feeling. I hope it encourages other Muslim youth to speak up and have their voices heard and to know that we matter and that our voices need to be heard.
What has the reception to the poem been from both Muslims and non-Muslims?
The reception of the poem has left me completely and utterly speechless and incredibly grateful. From non-Muslims, the support has been phenomenal, especially with the dialogue that has been taking place, in that when speaking of my poem and what it is about, non-Muslims will make sure to address the New Zealand tragedy as a terrorist attack and nothing less. The non-Muslims at the event expressed their gratitude and how they were grateful that I was speaking about something important, no matter how hard it may be. From Muslims, it has been a response of so much love and gratitude, in speaking up for what we as a community believe in, and of all of us being a small step in the right direction of change, InshAllah, God willing.
What advice would you give to fellow Muslims who are interested in using poetry to express ideas related to faith and identity?
One piece of advice I would give to fellow Muslims who are interested in using poetry to express ideas related to faith and identity is to always keep learning about your faith and how that shapes who you are. And just write about it. Poetry is a form of expression that allows you to speak up for yourself and for others, and I would say to just go for it. With the right knowledge, and with a good heart, we are able to do amazing things, and poetry is, in my opinion, an innovative way of showcasing that.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Lastly, I’d just like to say a huge thank you to my parents for always teaching me to speak up for what is right, and for helping me be strong in my faith and being able to express that through my poetry. A huge thank you also goes out to the Muslim community who have shown so much love towards me. Lastly, I want to give a huge thank you to the University of Windsor as well as the other participants of this competition for giving students the opportunity to use their voice and speak up for what matters, and for allowing me to be a part of this incredible experience. Alhamdulillah always and thank you.
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